A Fashionable Century
Textile Artistry and Commerce in the Late Qing
- PUBLISHED: June 2020
- SUBJECT LISTING: Art History / Asian Art, Asian Studies / China, Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
- BIBLIOGRAPHIC INFORMATION: 296 Pages, 7 x 10 in, 89 color illus., 3 maps, 8 tables
- ISBN: 9780295747187
- Publisher: University of Washington Press
Clothing and accessories from nineteenth-century China reveal much about women’s participation in the commercialization of textile handicrafts and the flourishing of urban popular culture. Focusing on women’s work and fashion, A Fashionable Century presents an array of visually compelling clothing and accessories neglected by traditional histories of Chinese dress, examining these products’ potential to illuminate issues of gender and identity.
In the late Qing, the expansion of production systems and market economies transformed the Chinese fashion system, widening access to fashionable techniques, materials, and imagery. Challenging the conventional production model, in which women embroidered items at home, Silberstein sets fashion within a process of commercialization that created networks of urban guilds, commercial workshops, and subcontracted female workers. These networks gave rise to new trends influenced by performance and prints, and they offered women opportunities to participate in fashion and contribute to local economies and cultures.
Rachel Silberstein draws on vernacular and commercial sources, rather than on the official and imperial texts prevalent in Chinese dress history, to demonstrate that in these fascinating objects—regulated by market desires, rather than imperial edict—fashion formed at the intersection of commerce and culture.
A Fashionable Century is the winner of the Costume Society of America's Millia Davenport Publication Award and was long-listed for the Textile Society of America's R. L. Shep Award. The judges described the book as "an extraordinary achievement in scholarship working with source materials that are little-known outside of China and not otherwise available in English."
Authors & Contributors
Rachel Silberstein is a lecturer in the Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington.
A Fashionable Century is not only deft in its writing and visual analysis, but this well-written book is itself a beautiful object.- New Books in East Asian Studies (NBN)
[R]eaders with passion about China and women’s fashions in the late Qing dynasty will get a lot out of this book. The book’s contribution to the discussions about the changes in China’s society, economy, and culture during the nineteenth century is vital and goes far beyond classic scholar literature.- Journal of Dress History
[M]eticulously researched, carefully argued, and beautifully illustrated.- Journal of Chinese History
An important contribution to the study of art and society in the late Qing...[B]ut because Silberstein [is] breaking new methodological ground, [this] work should be of interest beyond the bounds of China studies. It is to be hoped that readers interested in fashion history in other parts of the world will read and learn from this book and its innovative approach.- Journal of the American Oriental Society (JAOS)
Interweaving visual and material culture, A Fashionable Century adds significantly to our understanding of gender and class outside the court and the capital.- Kristina Kleutghen, Washington University in St. Louis
Bravo! This magnificent book is bold in conception, meticulous in research, and elegant in writing and visual analysis. Fashion and nineteenth-century Chinese society will never look the same again.- Dorothy Ko, author of The Social Life of Inkstones: Artisans and Scholars in Early Qing China